We ARE Addicts - Part I

We ARE Addicts - Part I
“Almost half of us are addicts. In a given year 47 percent of the U.S. adult population will suffer from a severe addiction”. (“Understanding Addiction: We Are Addicts” by Suzanne Wu, USC Trojan Family Magazine). After 83 studies of data about addiction, this was the conclusion of Steven Sussman, Keck School of Medicine at USC. So the good news for us in recovery is that we addicts are not a rarity, the lunatic fringe as it was once believed.

Hopefully I have your attention with the above statement and there are many more interesting concepts and observations that researchers have found about addicts that I will share with you. A friend of mine who graduated from USC thought that the article in his alumni magazine would be of interest to me. It was and I have read it over and over and each time I find something more that I feel is beneficial. I don’t usually find articles that make a lot of sense to me because most are based on way too many scientific and clinical experiments that don’t always mirror the reality of an addict. Of course, being in recovery and knowing addiction first hand, I still don’t agree with everything written and perhaps you won’t either. And it isn’t all “news” but interesting, nonetheless.

The best way for me to take you through this article is to highlight certain statements and/or facts. Some are factual; some are opinion. There may be a lack of continuity only because the article was lengthy, I’m picking out the interesting parts and I’m certainly not rewriting it. So the first statement made by Antoine Bechara, a neuroscientist at USC is interesting in that the second part relates to what we know as the “insanity” of addiction. “We are all born with the systems of addiction.” “Addiction is a disease of decision-making and bad choices, just as there are diseases of memory. Addiction is the failure to learn from mistakes.”

Did you know that the reason why treating the compulsive gambler, sex addict and one who has eating disorders (all known as impulse-control disorders) might not be covered by insurance is that they do not have the same physical withdrawal symptoms as alcoholic and drug addicts might have? This is why so many with the above addictions go into rehabs under the umbrella of alcohol and/or drug addiction when actually their primary addiction is gambling, or sex or eating. The good news to this is that there are people who believe that hinging addiction on physical withdrawal is archaic and misguided.

Now this is the statement that did make me sit up and take notice because I believe it is true although tough to explain. “Unlike obsessive-compulsive behaviors, which are governed by anxiety, addiction is governed by nothing less than the pursuit of happiness.” And isn’t that what we wanted; what we always wanted—happiness? Happiness that eluded us so we had to look for it in a bottle or in a pill? I think the person who said this nailed it big time!

The study continues to say that both genetics and environment come into play with addiction and I think we all have known that to be true. Carol Prescott, USC, has shown that in early adolescence, family and social environment is the most critical indicator of whether a child will try alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana. But once the brain has been exposed, there is more of a role of biology.” “There may also be such a thing as “addictive potential” –some underlying risk that would put a person at risk for many addictions. Professor Prescott is looking at the gray areas, and is examining how addiction is the result of both genes and opportunity—of nature and nuture.”

“Addiction—the compulsive pursuit of pleasure—is, in a sense evolutionarily adaptive. It’s not just crazy behavior. We are wired to feel good” says Adam Leventhal, USC. He also says that “impulsive tendencies is a trait that has a high correlation with addiction. Such people tend to think and act quickly, without considering long-term consequences.” Now I can see that in myself but the next part I cannot agree with. “Impulsive personality types also tend to be extroverted and brave.” From what I have learned about myself and others in recovery, it was the fact that we were NOT extroverted and brave that led to our downfall. Yet, no matter what type of personality we were, it may have been desirable in some setting but somehow ended up very wrong.

This is excellent news for compulsive gamblers! The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which serves as a guide for therapists is being revised and scheduled for release in 2013. Under consideration is grouping compulsive gambling with substance addictions. This will open up insurance and rehabs for gamblers that were not available. The experts are finally recognizing that behavioral and substance addictions share common root causes in the brain. There is also a push to unify all addictions and put them under one umbrella. Unfortunately, this would be at the Federal level and so I fear this will be futuristic.

Well, my friends, there is so much more I want to tell you and I am running out of space. So I am going to continue with this next week. In general, I hope you have found the first part of this informative, yet not overly clinical. I find it interesting to see what the experts have to say about “us”.

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

“Like” Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of “The Intervention Book: Stories and Solutions from Addicts, Professionals, and Families” (Conari Press)

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